February 12th, 2010
Last Sunday was one of the best Sundays of my life. Through the Chennai Trekking Club with Pramod, Hopeland and our Irula Guide, we walked through farm lands near the Crocodile Park in the hope of finding our crawling friends. Little did we know that it would be an experience of a lifetime … From handling a Rat Snake to hearing a Spectacled Cobra hissing and striking, to a Russell’s Viper showing his deadly fangs and precious drops of venom; everyone was hooked, fascinated and intrigued by these mysterious yet beautiful creatures.
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The Rat Snake
This was the first snake we caught on that day. As we were chattering and walking, our guide suddenly turned around and moved towards a fence. Few minutes of looking through the bush & he emerged with a really long adult rat snake. Much of its torso was in a triangular shape and it had beautiful scales in greenish brown colour with yellow bands in some places. I was most captivated by its eyes. They were big and shining and it looked as if it wore eye-liner.
Hopeland, our snake expert, explained that the top of its head resembles a Cobra. So, when people spot this snake, they wrongly assume it as a Cobra and kill it. Cobras aren’t as long as Rat Snakes. A rat snake’s distinct feature is that, it emits some chemical when it wants to get away or when it finds a mate. When Ravi Ghosh handled the snake, it put up such a stink that we couldn’t contain our laughter .
After plenty of pictures with the Rat Snake, we moved along and found our prized catch for the day.
The Spectacled Cobra
Whatever said and done, whatever programs you see on Discovery or National Geographic, nothing comes close to experiencing the Cobra first hand. The way he majestically erected himself and opened his hood was a sight to behold! Not only that, he didn’t attempt to strike on first sight. He gave plenty of warning and hissed loudly for more than an hour… And then the inevitable happened. He struck! Like lightening, his head darted forward and hit the ground. Our Irula guide moved his hand just in time. In no time, the Cobra was back to his erect stance, intently observing his every move. The only downside was that, the Cobra never cared about what happened behind him.
Venomous snakes such as the Cobra are captured by authorized snake catchers. These snakes are then handed over to the Irula Society where their venom is extracted and after about 30 days, they are released in the wild. Cobra was a prize catch. We were so lucky that day. Slowly, while distracting the snake with one hand, he brought his other hand behind the Cobra and in a swift move, he caught his head and lifted him up. He allowed the Cobra to open its mouth and showed us the fangs through which venom is injected during bites.
It was deadly. But on that particular day, my fears vanished and I got as close as possible to that magnificent creature and got as many shots as possible. It was one of those special moments that I will cherish for a lifetime. After all, how many get to touch and feel a live, throbbing and insanely venomous adult Cobra? [Warning: Never go near any snake in the wild without expert guidance.]
This snake was the most beautiful that I had ever seen until now. So close, so venomous and so beautiful! He was about 3 foot long and from the moment he was caught, he was very restless and hissed loudly for all the time he was held. In fact, his hiss was so loud that it could be heard above our chatter. It was a very lucky day for everyone. We had seen 2 of the Big 4 Indian Venomous snakes.
Russell’s Viper have very big fangs that are capable of piercing to a great extent on the human body. It’s venom is capable of doing extensive damage. This particular snake is responsible for maximum number of snake bite deaths in our country. But all these details wilt when you see such a snake in front of your eyes, showcasing what he is capable of. For a few precious moments, I was totally absorbed in capturing all his movements and got as many snaps as I could. This was a chance that presented itself & who would want to miss it?
As he was being handled, few drops of precious venom escaped from his long fangs. Everyone observed it with rapt attention. All that while, the viper’s body was throbbing heavily as he was hissing continuously. After the power display of his fangs, he was placed carefully in a bag and carried off to the Irula Society.
At the society, we were shown how venom is extracted from snakes. They placed a small bottle and made the snake to bite that bottle. Snakes control how much of venom they inject each time. So, when a Banded Krait’s venom was extracted, everyone was shocked and surprised. Those drops can wreck havoc when it gets injected into blood stream
A wonderful day had come to an end and I wished it never ended. I badly wanted to touch the Russell’s Viper’s fangs. But common sense prevailed and the guide wouldn’t hear any of that. With a satisfying day and some intense experiences, I was pretty sure this experience would be remembered for a lifetime.
Special thanks to Hopeland for sharing so much knowledge on snakes.
Now, as the photos are unveiled below, grab a drink, sit back and enjoy them! Here’s a direct link to the album.
See you soon … Hissssssssss !!